*The following post was written by Senior LaTonya Norman as a part of the Southern Education Foundation's Emerging Young Leaders Conference.
An excellent education, a fair chance, a passion for learning, making it out into the real world, being successful, and being known are what all students my age want and hope for in life. Yet, they’re not the only ones. Teachers and coaches want this for their students as well. They would love to see their students be successful in life and achieve their goals and dreams. For this exact reason, many students in my school and community have decided to bring forth an excellent idea for teachers and coaches who prepare us for life after high school and who we look up to the most.
Students within my school and community care about many of the same things and as students we feel that teachers can’t help us because they don’t understand us. Therefore, we believe in order to help us, our teachers and coaches would better understand us if they lived life in our shoes – but not literally. In order to help us and give us the best education possible, teachers should understand what their students like, who they are, and where they come from. One of the best ways to do this is to take classes and educate themselves on what happens in our lives and what we as children and students have to go through.
If teachers/coaches knew what their students had to endure on a daily basis they would better understand where we come from, why some students act out, why some don’t do their work, and, most importantly, they’d understand what they need to do to get us to where we need to be. If teachers/coaches went to conferences and workshops, they would have the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills that would benefit them and that they can share with their students to create a stronger bond and make schools stronger. The idea is to inspire students to live their dreams, help improve school environments, and help teachers help their students through greater understanding.
One of the major drawbacks to this entire situation/idea would be financial concerns. Often, schools are faced with tough financial decisions and they probably wouldn’t financially support this idea. Sending teachers to workshops and conferences may not appear to be an educational priority, but what they fail to realize is that the students will benefit from it as well. Too often, school board members make bad decisions about school finance and curriculum activities without fully being informed on those particular issues. As a result, the school loses time and money – which are two resources that we could put toward the teachers and students of our school.
In my opinion, and as well as my fellow classmates’ opinions, schools should consider sending teachers, coaches, and even principals to conferences where they can be better informed on ways to help students, like myself, make it out of the “hood”. This would be the perfect opportunity for them to learn ways to better strengthen students’ achievements by working and learning from other individuals who come from the same place and who walked in the same shoes as their students. This is why it is our responsibility as students to speak up and apply ourselves. Slacking and failing are not options. If teachers adopted this strategy it would be easier and more comfortable for students to connect and interact with them. In addition, class and schools would run more smoothly. As a result, more students would find themselves with an excellent education with a fair chance at success.
When we’re little teachers always tell us to dream big. They also tell us that we can be anything in the world that we want to be - shouldn’t they stand behind their words and push and help their students to be just that? I believe they should and what a better way to start than by attending workshops and conferences to get the help they need to help us.